Script: Mike Mignola & Thomas Sniegoski
Art: Craig Rousseau
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover Artist: Matt Smith (standard); Mike Mignola & Dave Stewart (variant); Craig Rousseau (Jetpack Comics exclusive variant)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Available: February 17, from your LCS, Scout.com, Amazon and ComiXology
Available this Wednesday at your lovely local comic shop (and Amazon and ComiXology) from Dark Horse is the premiere issue of the four-part Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land. A lighter-than-your-typical-Hellboy-toned adventure tale, YHB is set in May, 1947 (pre- the events of Hellboy: The Midnight Circus) and designed by writers Mike Mignola and Tom Sniegoski to have a 1930’s pulp adventure feel. Kind of an Indiana Jones with a much less annoying (and only slightly more demonic) Short Round sort of style, if you will.
Spoiler alert: they nailed it.
So right out of the gate, let’s agree on one thing: Hellboy is awesome (yes, we’re ignoring that last film). Now, know what’s even more awesome than Hellboy? Young Hellboy circa age 6 or so. Think Calvin a la Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes, only red, and with horns. And an enormous right hand—but with all the spunk, curiosity and irreverence.
‘Cept for some reason, religious nutjobs of the era still wanted to take him out. Apparently, some people just can’t handle their pending Armageddon as well as the rest of us.
And so: here we have tyke-sized HB and Professor Bruttenholm hopping an island flight to Arequipa (that’s in South America) to enjoy an Incan archeological dig, only to be waylaid and forced to crash-land by one such fanatic. Instead of Incan treasures (and mummies!) and ancient civilizations (and kid mummies!), HB and the good Professor find themselves besieged by giant crustaceans, blood-thirsty (maybe?) super-gorillas, hungry sand and pack-tactic savvy dinosaurs…and discover their very own Jungle Girl (a new character in the Mignolaverse: Scarlett Santiago, the Sky Devil)! And maybe even their own ancient civilization! And who knows, maybe mummies (It turns out young Hellboy had a bit of a thing for the athletic tape-wrapped undead)!
Thomas Sniegoski and Mike Mignola are clearly having a blast with this one, and their joy is our gain. Young Hellboy is a rip-roaring fun time, hitting all the right notes of a world-hopping pulp adventure. The voice of child Hellboy is extremely well executed(as you’d of course expect, given this writing tandem): you’ve got elements and hints at the mannerisms of the adult HB-to-come, bits of his humor, but via the lens of a young child, fascinated with everything and happy to fly off on an adventure with his adored (but frequently absent) father-figure. He’s endearing, he’s fun—and the relationship between he and his mentor can’t help but pull at one’s heartstrings.
And when li’l HB’s scared and alone, separated from the Prof and fearing for his life—well that feels every bit genuine, as well.
Craig Rousseau takes the reigns on line art for this series, and his style—a little whimsical, a little bit Darwyn Cooke and a little bit Bruce Timm, all clean, simple but highly expressive lines—is perfect for this book’s tone. This isn’t adult Hellboy versus Rasputin or Baba Yaga or the forces of hell; it’s kiddo HB versus (ok, doing his best to book away from) velociraptors and angry gorillas…but it’s still Hellboy. And Rousseau gets that—perfectly.
Of course, he’s got the aid of Hellboy veteran and every bit the legend Mignola is Dave Stewart to help him out on colors. This one’s a bit of a departure for Stewart, mostly bright (might we almost say cheery?) colors, but they’re no less powerful than his darkest, most heavily-shaded Hellboy in Hell work. Again, the tone of pulp adventure is maintained through Stewart’s vivid palettes, and Rousseau’s spare lines come to life with his hues.
Lettering is more than capably handled by Clem Robins (another Hellboy veteran), who gets to play more with bombastic sound effects than he’s likely accustomed to in a Mignola-helmed book. Dialogue balloons are tucked and structured to aid in the flow of Rousseau’s lines, and the book reads smoothly and comfortably.
The greatest difficulty on this one, frankly, is going to be picking which cover you want to snag. Matt Smith offers up beautiful standard release covers for all four issues, while Mignola and Stewart team up for a gorgeous variant cover, and Jetpack Comics has a Rousseau-commissioned exclusive cover of their own (which sells for a chunk more, but is freakin’ incredible—as seen below!). Have fun picking your fave, or go the route I’m likely to and get all three!
Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land #1 will be available at LCS’s, Amazon and ComiXology this Wednesday (February 17), for $3.99. Limited to 1000 copies, the Jetpack Comics Exclusive cover can be ordered from Jetpack’s eBay store for $17.99 plus shipping (find it here).
Review by Andy Patch